Airless Dispensing Systems: Airless, Redesigned
New packaging shapes are taking airless dispensers to the next level.By Marie Redding, Senior Editor
The variety of airless packages available today shows how hard suppliers have been working to advance these types of dispensing systems. Airless dispensing systems are being combined with bottles molded in unique shapes. One supplier has even developed a way to dispense a product without using a bottle at all.
An Artfully Designed Airless Line
Want an airless package but feel that bottle shapes are limited to the typical cylinder? Look to L’Oréal Paris for inspiration. The company has partnered with Rexam Dispensing Systems (Purchase, NY) to combine high-end aesthetics with function.
The Derma Genèse line by L’Oréal Paris features the brand’s new, patented bottle design. The line’s formulations contain hyaluronic acid and Pro-Xylane, a new generation of a naturally derived, patented molecule. The active ingredients claim antiaging benefits. They also require airless packaging.
The bottles’ innovative shapes are meant to reflect the fact that the formulas contain technologically advanced ingredients. The same design was used for the two bottle sizes, 15 and 50 ml.
One of the most frequent dispensing challenges is figuring out how to dispense a thick product without causing air bubbles to form. Rexam’s SP343 lotion pump is able to do this and also deliver a precise dosage. “This pump will work through any air bubbles that might become trapped in the formula,” says Virginie Lemeumier, global lotion product manager for Rexam Dispensing Systems.
The bottle that was produced for L’Oréal’s Derma Genèse line consists of two parts—an inner polypropylene bottle and an outer SAN transparent shell with a shiny finish. It also has an airtight collar that is metallized polypropylene, and a lockable actuator.
The pump’s collar snaps onto the bottle using Rexam’s patented Snap On technology, which allows the bottle to be filled and assembled at high speeds on filling lines. “This technology also protects the integrity of the airless system. Once the pump is snapped onto the bottles, there is no possibility of air reentering the package,” explains Lemeumier. The company’s patented “purge” ring helps create a vacuum when the collar and actuator are snapped on, making it possible for the bulk to be filled at a faster rate.
Rexam Dispensing Systems produced the packaging at different factories in France and the United States. Its facility in Le Treport, France, supplied the pump; the actuator, collar, ring, and pump assembly were molded in Tournus; and its Simandre facility metallized the collar and molded both the transparent SAN shell and polypropylene cup. The Simandre plant also assembled the shell, cup, and piston. In the United States, two different Rexam facilities worked on the project. The actuator and pump assembly were molded in Thomaston, CT, while the polypropylene and SAN containers were produced and assembled with the piston in Sussex, WI.
An Airless Pouch, Minus the Bottle
Imagine the pouch a person might find inside some airless bottles—but without the bottle. That’s one of the packaging innovations related to MDS, the product that Roger LaFlamme has been presenting to the cosmetic and personal care industry. LaFlamme is president and cofounder of Poly-d.
This type of dispensing package could be used for cosmetic foundations, lotions, skin creams, shower gels—any liquid product. “The pouch is thermoplastic but could be made with multiple layers, making it compatible with any type of formulation,” says LaFlamme. A barrier could even be placed inside the pouch, dividing it into two compartments to separate ingredients. “This would be perfect for a hair color application. It could contain a breakable seal. The two products could be mixed together and then dispensed, all in the same package,” he says.
LaFlamme has been receiving a lot of interest in this type of package from the beauty industry. “Although the response has been phenomenal, I don’t have an exclusive agreement yet with a beauty company. There is so much interest because it is a new technology that solves a range of dispensing challenges,” he says.
The first product to be marketed using this package will be an over-the-counter drug. This product is expected to launch by the third quarter of this year. Another major consumer products brand has also been working with Poly-d on the development of a home care product, expected to launch in 2009.
A major benefit of the MDS package is that it allows one-handed, metered dispensing. There is total control over how much product is dispensed. The system can be modified according to the dosage and rate at which products should be dispensed, and more than 98% of the product inside the pouch can be expressed. Since it is a vacuum-based system, it can also dispense at any orientation.
The shape of the pouch gives package designers more freedom to come up with new shapes for products and packages. “It could provide users with a whole new experience when they are using certain products. Packages could be soft and more ergonomically shaped, instead of the usual bottle shape. Also, there is no need for a cap because [the dispenser] seals and shuts automatically,” LaFlamme says. The outside of the pouch could be customized using a foil-lamination process or even decorated with a fabric applique. “It could also be integrated into any hard-sided package,” LaFlamme adds.
The pouch doesn’t require a bottle, so fewer materials are used to make it—a greener alternative. “It’s flat, so it will take up less room in a landfill,” adds LaFlamme.
The biggest challenge that the team at Poly-d faced during development was reducing the number of parts. “Traditional airless systems require a lot of injection-molded parts that are assembled together in order to function properly. Our greatest technical challenge was designing a flat, flexible plumbing system. We spent a lot of time developing the valve system and making sure that all the parts were soft and flexible,” LaFlamme explains.
Inspired By a Sneaker
It’s not unusual for products outside of the cosmetics industry to inspire beauty packaging. For instance, a pharmaceutical product can inspire a new dispensing system, and a car’s finish can fuel the development of a new type of lacquer or decoration for a plastic component. However, this may be the first time that an athletic shoe inspired a new way to dispense and package beauty products.
At one point in his career, LaFlamme was a senior executive at the company that designed and manufactured the Reebok Pump. The shoe’s mechanism worked using a bladder system, which inflated with air and surrounded the foot. “The foundation for the MDS dispensing technology was based upon the work I had done on the Reebok Pump, especially the way its valves and pouches worked,” he says.
When a consumer goods company approached LaFlamme and asked him to develop a dispensing solution, he was inspired to bring the technology to the beauty industry. Many will be happy he did.
Case History: MD Skincare
MD Skincare talks about the challenges in pairing the right product with the right airless package.
The skin care market is filled with products claiming antiaging formulations and technologically advanced ingredients. These formulations need airless dispensing systems that maintain the stability of certain ingredients. The experts at MD Skincare shared some of the challenges they faced when packaging products in airless packages.
The Switch to Airless
The MD Skincare brand, founded by Manhattan-based dermatologist Dennis Gross, has used airless dispensing systems for a few products in the past. Recently, the company made the decision to choose airless packages more frequently in the future. This type of package is being used for new products that have been introduced under the brand name Hydra-Pure.
“We switched to using an airless dispensing system to keep our ingredients stable and to give our products a longer shelf life,” says Stefani Thionnet-Maloney, executive vice president of MD Skincare. “When developing a new product, it’s always important to know which antioxidants could benefit from having an airtight valve. In the serum category, it’s probably most important,” she explains.
Five out of seven products in the Hydra-Pure collection are in airless packages. The latest additions to the collection are Redness Soothing Serum and Radiance Renewal Serum, which both launched last fall.
Hydra-Pure products are based on MD Skincare’s patent-pending Chelating Complex, an ingredient blend meant to remove the impurities found in tap water in order to help detoxify the skin. “The chelator removes the heavy metals found in tap water from the skin and also helps the skin to better absorb the beneficial trace minerals,” says Thionnet-Maloney. Chelators weren’t new when the brand began using them, but MD Skincare was the first company to use the ingredients in a skin care product for this unique benefit, according to Thionnet-Maloney. “Incorporating chelators in a product formulation allows the ingredients to penetrate faster and more efficiently, delivering immediate and long-term results.”
Airless Packaging Protects Vitamin C
Hydra-Pure Vitamin C Serum launched last summer. Most beauty product manufacturers would agree that vitamin C is a tough ingredient to keep stable. “As soon as it is exposed to light and air, it loses its potency,” says Thionnet-Maloney. She feels that a darkly colored bottle is not enough for a product containing this common ingredient. “There are thousands of products on the market now that contain vitamin C, but if they’re not in an airtight package, the formulations won’t be potent enough to provide any benefit to the skin,” she explains.
MD Skincare wants its customers to better understand the benefits of an airtight package and spends a lot of time educating its sales teams. “Although consumers are savvier than ever when it comes to their knowledge of ingredients, we believe there are opportunities to further educate them on the benefits of proper packaging. We want them to further understand that the only way they will see the benefits of a product with vitamin C is if it is in an airtight package. Otherwise, they are wasting their money,” explains Thionnet-Maloney. She is also relying heavily on word of mouth to get this message across. “We’re hoping consumers will spread the news. The ‘tried and tested’ marketing approach has been embedded in all of our minds,” she adds.
Choosing the Right Airless Package
The type of airless dispensing system that MD Skincare has used over the years has changed quite a few times. The company has used the same airless package for the past two years, and the team is extremely happy with it.
“All airless packages are not the same. The technology has changed so much in the past five years. There are many more options available now, and we’ve been finding a huge difference in the quality of airtight components that are available,” says Thionnet-Maloney.
One of the earlier challenges the brand faced was an air pocket inside the packaging that prohibited the product from being properly dispensed. The bottle had to be held at a certain angle and tapped to get the bubble out. “Because it is so important that the packaging be easy to use, we had to go back to the drawing board and explore more-effective options,” says Thionnet-Maloney.
The team at MD Skincare performs a rigorous amount of compatibility testing to ensure that it delivers a quality package. “Chances are if you just choose a bottle you like based on looks, it won’t work with your formula. We work diligently with our team to do extensive testing on every formula,” says Thionnet-Maloney.
There are always a few obstacles that can’t be prevented. “Sometimes a formula won’t be able to dispense correctly through a pump because the final formula we get back from the lab turns out to be different from the lab batches we tested in the package. For this reason, we test product from every lab batch in the airless systems we are considering to ensure that they are compatible. This way we can make adjustments along the way and avoid surprises,” says Thionnet-Maloney.
Winning over the Consumer
When consumers have enough confidence in a brand to spend $90 or more on a skin care product, brands need to be sure they are delivering a reliable package. Aesthetics can be just as important as function. Since MD Skincare underwent a redesign in 2004, Thionnet-Maloney has seen a tremendous increase in interest in the products. “Our silver and orange color combination makes such a statement on shelves and definitely helps to draw the consumer’s eye.” The brand is very protective of its bright and easily recognizable trademark orange color. “It’s Dr. Gross’s favorite color,” she says.